December 17, 2017

Favorite Christmas Movies

US Navy 061217-N-0336C-052 Sailors relax while watching the Christmas movie
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arturo Chavez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aside from the steady flow of largely unproductive Trump-related outrage from which I am desperately trying to distance myself this time of year, social media has been filled with polls and discussions of everyone's favorite Christmas movies. This is a fun topic, but it is also a surprisingly tough one because it forces us to figure out what we mean by a Christmas movie and make some decisions about what counts and what doesn't. For example, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? And if not, why not?

What is a Christmas Movie?

In order for something to count as a Christmas movie, what characteristics must it have? Could it be any film you like to watch around Christmas regardless of content? That would open the door to considering any film you like as a candidate for a Christmas film, and that would probably be too broad. Every one of us would list our personal favorites, and almost nobody would probably recognize any of them as Christmas movies. That's not going to work.

Could it be any film, regardless of content, that is set on or right around Christmas and contains Christmas-related set pieces? This could make something like Die Hard a Christmas movie, and it would open the door to some of my personal favorites (e.g., Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night). Still, this probably isn't what most people mean by Christmas movies. While I have seen Die Hard on many lists, I can't help thinking it is a stretch to call it a Christmas movie.

My guess is that most people would say that a Christmas movie must have a certain type of content or theme in order to qualify. It is tough to pin down exactly what that means, so another approach might be to restrict what we count to those films that were designed by those who made them to be Christmas movies. Of course, that would only help if we think we know the intent of those who made the film.

What criteria would you use? What counts as a Christmas movie and what doesn't?

My Favorites

Using the narrowest and most restrictive definition (i.e., a Christmas movie is one that has Christmas-centric content and/or themes and was designed to be a Christmas movie), the following would be my top 5:
  1. Bad Santa
  2. Jingle All the Way
  3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  4. Elf
  5. A Christmas Story
These all have quite a bit in common. You see, what I look for in a Christmas movie (if I am going to be limited to the more restrictive criteria for determining what counts as one) is mind-numbingly stupid comedy. I am looking to unwind and turn off my brain for awhile this time of year. I wouldn't claim that any of these films are particularly good ones, but they are what comes to mind when I think of Christmas movies I enjoy.